What’s the Difference Between Anabaptists and Baptists?

AnabaptistIs there a difference between the groups that identify as Anabaptist and those who identify as Baptist? After all, both teach baptism by immersion for believers. They both were even active in the same area of Europe.

It is true that they have much in common but they are two very different groups.

The term Anabaptist was one given by their enemies and was not embraced by the early Anabaptists. It means “baptize again,” something that they denied since they did not consider infant baptism to be legitimate.

They are a part of the Radical Reformation. The Lutherans and Calvinists had rejected many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church but some thought they hadn’t gone far enough. Infant baptism wasn’t mentioned in the Bible so some began offering baptizing only those who could confess Jesus as Lord.

There was a wide range of beliefs among these Anabaptists, but soon many began to embrace pacifism. They were a persecuted minority, facing the wrath of the Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. They were chased from country to country.

One of most influential Anabaptists was Menno Simons from present day Netherlands. Many Mennonites come from this Dutch background.

The Baptists emerged out of a similar but different contexts. The Anabaptists began in the 16th century, while the Baptists appeared in the early 17th century.

England had been a time of terrible religious turmoil. The state religion seemed to change with each new monarch, leading to persecution of those on the wrong side. Many dissenters fled the country.

One of these was John Smyth, who found himself in the Netherlands. After study of the Scriptures, he and his associates concluded that the Bible didn’t teach infant baptism. They were baptized as believers and the movement began to spread.

Early on, they divided into General (Arminian) Baptists and Particular (Calvinist) Baptists. Baptists have had the reputation of splitting off into multiple splinter groups.

Because of the experience in England, one of the important themes is the separation of church and state. They also highly emphasize the role of the local church instead of a hierarchy.

While some Baptists might be pacifists, it is not an official part of Baptist doctrine.

There likely was some conversation between the early Anabaptists and Baptists, but that quickly led to disagreements and conflicts.

Today, Anabaptists and Baptists get along quite well. You might find an Anabaptist pastor of a Baptist church or a Baptist pastor of an Anabaptist church.

You might find this conversation between an Anabaptist and a Baptist interesting.

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